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Idaho farmers do well at ballot box

Virtually all of Idaho's main agricultural counties went to Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican rancher from Star, during the recent primary election. Idaho farmers and ranchers performed well in races for statewide office but had mixed success when it came to legislative seats.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on May 28, 2014 10:50AM

BOISE — Idaho farmers and ranchers running for statewide offices performed well at the ballot box during the recent primary election.

But they had mixed results when it came to legislative races for the Idaho House and Senate.

The claim by Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign that the Republican rancher was widely supported by Idaho agriculture proved true in almost all of the state’s biggest agricultural counties.

“The vast majority of agricultural areas went with Otter,” said Brent Olmstead, executive director of Milk Producers of Idaho, one of many farming groups that endorsed the governor.

Seven of the top eight counties in Idaho, when it comes to total farm gate receipts, went to Otter. The only exception was Canyon County.

Otter, who owns a ranch and farm in Star in southwestern Idaho, performed exceptionally well in the Magic Valley area, which produces more than half of the state’s total farm cash receipts.

Otter defeated his nearest challenger, Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, by a vote of 79,786 to 67,702 in the primary election.

In Cassia County, Idaho’s top county when it comes to farm receipts, Otter garnered 1,699 votes to Fulcher’s 1,079. In Gooding County, No. 2 in farm receipts, it was 1,134-488 in favor of Otter; in Twin Falls County, No. 3, the vote was 3,975-2,079 Otter, and in Jerome County, No. 4, it was 1,346-520 Otter.

Other top ag counties that voted heavily in favor of the governor included: Bingham (3,226-2,111), Elmore (1,404-681) and Minidoka (1,680-881).

Together, those seven counties accounted for almost half of Otter’s 12,084-vote winning margin.

“The governor did really well in the ag counties,” said Jason Ronk, Otter’s campaign manager.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, also a rancher, easily won his Republican primary race by a 67-33 percent margin.

Rep. Lawerence Denney, a Republican farmer from Midvale and former speaker of the Idaho House, won a four-way primary race for secretary of state with 37 percent of the vote, comfortably ahead of the 27.9 percent second-place total.

Like Otter, Denney won all five counties that make up the bulk of the Magic Valley area.

When it came to legislative seats, it was a mixed bag for farmers and ranchers.

Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale, easily won her primary race, as did Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, a Republican agribusiness owner from Huston.

Merrill Beyeler, a Republican rancher from Leadore, defeated an 11-term legislator, Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett of Challis.

But Sen. Monty Pearce, a Republican rancher from New Plymouth, was defeated by a 56-44 percent margin and Rigby farmer Danny Ferguson, a member of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors, lost his bid at a House seat by a 5-percent margin.


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